On the Road With Joey Votto, Who Hasn’t Turned On a Hotel TV in 15 Years

These are simple, but I travel everywhere with them. (Holds up cordless hair clippers) I’ve probably purchased about 35 of these over the course of my career, just because I’ve forgotten them in hotels. I cut my hair myself and clean my face myself. It keeps me out of Great Clips or whatever. I also have to have this for my toothbrush. (Holds up an Efferdent dental appliance cleaner) I’m particular about my toothbrush. I also always bring a bar of soap. It’s a wasteful experience, but I always bring a brand-new bar and leave it in the room. Same with brand-new toothbrushes. I just leave them in the room with the toothpaste. It’s like that scene from Fight Club when they’re on the plane: “Single serving friend.” Hotel travel is a single service experience for me.

So you mentioned if you don’t have this stuff, you’ll spiral out of control. But something like a toothbrush or toothpaste can easily be purchased at a drugstore or even in the lobby sometimes. If you have to do that, does it lead to a spiral?

The idea of ordering stuff on Instacart and having to go to the lobby to meet the person—there’s something about the rhythm of game day that I don’t like fooling with. (I don’t even like trying) a new food style, or having to go downstairs to go get something and then I take a weird step and my back’s tight, then I don’t perform as well. It’s so silly. But every little bit makes a difference. I’m quite particular. Have all my stuff, room service, lunch somewhere or at the ballpark, play the game. Over and over and over. First thing I do is wake up and stretch, then sometimes I’ll order room service immediately and head straight to the ballpark. Sleep is the number one thing. If I show up a little later, it’s a good thing, because I maxed out my sleep.

This feels like an old-guy thing.

I don’t think of myself as an old guy. But they’ll let you know that you’re an old guy. I am sport-world old. I’ve been doing it for a long time and I have an idea of what the rhythm needs to feel like.

Votto and 21-year-old teammate Elly De La Cruz

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What makes a good hotel room and what makes a bad hotel room?

Hotels to me are the bed—I like it firm—room temperature, the general sense of cleanliness, and the late-night room-service menu. If I have those four things, I can stay in any hotel. I would say temperature and bed quality are the two priorities. I always travel with a hoodie, sweatpants, and socks. If it’s really cold I’ll throw the hoodie and sweatpants on and tuck the pants into my socks. I find that that gets me through any cold room. I always want cold more than I want warm, though.

What is your go-to room service order?

It used to be—when I was younger—I always wanted fries and I always wanted a dessert. Now, it’s like steamed everything, and fruit, and protein minus the sauce. Sweet potato would be a dream, but not a lot of hotels have it.

Do you ever find yourself wanting some familiar comfort food? Is there a chain restaurant you particularly like on the road?

I don’t do chains. For example, here in Milwaukee, I’ll go to Story Hill BKC. When I’m in Pittsburgh I go to täkō. When I’m in Chicago I’ll go to Fig & Olive. There’s familiar places that I can get a trusted meal. The service is good, and they’re pretty quick, so I know I can get a seat and get out of there pretty quickly. There’s a place in every city.

Do you like to use the couch in a hotel room?

Mmm, it’s fine post-game. I like to put my feet up and play chess or watch YouTube. It’s better if the couch has the option to really prop my legs up and lay down. Sometimes it’s difficult because I’ll be in bed and I’m spinning about the game. It’s hard for me to go to sleep. I’ll try as hard as I can to keep electronics out of my bed, but then I’ll just lay on my bed and answer messages or something like that.

I also really like when a hotel room has a printed-out list of the TV channels.

I haven’t watched TV in 15 years.

Is that true?

Yeah, I don’t watch television. I have not turned on a hotel television in 15 years. I love my computer and my cell phone. I try not to bend over (mimics looking down at a cell phone) because it jacks up my neck. I usually prop up the computer on two pillows and play chess or read my emails or whatever.

I was in a hotel recently where the shower only had half a door? Like, it was a glass pane that only goes halfway across, so my instinct was to pull on it and try to close it all the way, but it’s supposed to be like that. Have you experienced any of these?

We don’t have a lot of hotel rooms like that. But I stayed in one in, I believe it was Toledo, Ohio, during my (minor league) rehab. I thought, “I wonder if I’ll ever get asked this question.”

So when you’re rehabbing in the minor leagues and you’re in unfamiliar cities and hotels, does that throw off the rhythm you’re talking about?

Yeah, it does. But I kind of like the challenge of problem solving and performing well in a new environment. I’ll give you an example. We’re in Milwaukee: familiar hotel, familiar room service, familiar restaurant, familiar Uber ride to the ballpark. I’ve known the bellman for 15-17 years. Every time I get here, he clothespins the curtains for me and puts the fan on. Plants are everywhere. When I arrive, everything is taken care of. Those things happen in almost every city. I have relationships everywhere. Whereas when I’m rehabbing in Toledo or Nashville or what have you, it’s a completely new experience. It was manageable. Those stats don’t count, though.

Did you go explore any of those minor league cities?

So, I’m usually just ballpark and hotel. Rarely do I go out to dinner or a bar. But in Toledo there was a sushi place adjacent to the stadium. It was so good, better than you could ever imagine. I’ve been to plenty of Michelin star sushi restaurants. This little—I don’t want to call it hole in the wall, but a modest bar and sushi place called Kengo Sushi in Toledo—was fabulous. Fabulous! As far as exploring, no. But every now and then I’ll cross paths with a restaurant that I try to take advantage of. I used to check out more things, but I don’t have the legs for that anymore.

When you were rehabbing in the minor leagues, were you buying a really nice postgame food spread for all the guys?

Yeah, I was there for so long that I bought some spreads, took them out to dinner, and actually had a chef come in and cook for them one time. We went to a steak place in, I think it was Columbus, Ohio. It was more about wanting to spend time with them away from the field. That’s common, and they like when you share the moment with them.

How are you liking MLB’s new schedule this year where every team plays every other team at least once? I’m sure you’re getting to visit some cities that you haven’t been to very much.

I like it! The travel is a little different than it was before, but I like it. When you play every day, you pay so little attention to the opponent because you’re in and out so quickly. Sometimes you’ll notice—like if we’re going to Anaheim or Oakland or places we normally don’t go—those stand out. But generally, the season goes by so quickly that you hit the cities and just move on. It’s only as nice as how well you play. You can go to New York City and stay in the best hotel there, but if you’re not playing well and the team is not playing well, you don’t care.

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